ABU DHABI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, yesterday met the king of Spain to officially open the world's first solar power plant capable of generating energy 24 hours a day.
The Gemasolar facility at Fuentes de Andalucia in Seville uses thousands of reflectors to direct sunlight on to a type of salt thermal cell, which is used to transfer the heat energy, rather than the traditional medium of oil.
The 185-hectare site includes 2,650 heliostats or mirrors that reflect the Sun's rays on to a 140-metre central tower, concentrating solar irradiation at a ratio of 1000:1.
The project, which is part owned by the UAE's clean energy company Masdar, is the world's first commercial plant to use molten salt thermal storage in a central tower configuration with a heliostat field.
This allows Gemasolar to operate at more than 550°C, much higher than traditional plants, in turn generating hotter, pressurised steam to move turbines, increasing the plant's efficiency.
Storing the hot salt also means electricity generation can continue for up to 15 hours even when there is no sunshine, a capability which could transform the solar industry.
Sheikh Mohammed toured the facility with King Juan Carlos before unveiling a memorial plaque to commemorate the launch.
Genuine success requires Masdar to encourage and inspire others to find sources of future energy, the Crown Prince was quoted as saying by the official Wam news agency.
The project is owned by Torresol Energy, a joint venture between Masdar and the Spanish engineering and construction firm Sener.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the UAE had proved it was keen to develop alternative energy.
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of Masdar, said: "Abu Dhabi's initiative to develop renewable energy and clean tech solutions complements and is underpinned by its existing strong position and strength in the hydrocarbon industry."